This year has been unique for us. Early in the pandemic shut down we decided to support you in your isolation with daily devotions. One day at a time spent in the presence of God means every day has some aspect of joy no matter how difficult.
This has been a tiring year for most people and I include myself in that. So now it is time to have a rest. Daily devotions might be back at the start of school term. We will do a reassessment before then.
In the meantime, feel free to try out alternative daily devotions. I have enjoyed YouVersion which hosts a large variety of devotional styles from great to aweful. However, you get to choose which devotion series you would like to try. Try here https://www.youversion.com/the-bible-app/
Whatever you choose give each day to God and listen to him as he speaks to you about life.
In the words of our church vision "Everyone Closer to God".
Grace and Peace,
Graeme and Vic
Christmas Is Really For The Children
Christmas is really
for the children.
Especially for children
who like animals, stables,
stars and babies wrapped
is swaddling clothes.
Then there were wise men,
Kings in fine robes,
humble shepherds and a
hint of rich perfume.
Easter is not really
for the children
unless accompanied by
a cream filled egg.
It has whips, blood, nails,
a spear and allegations
of body snatching.
It involves politics, God
and the sins of the world.
It is not good for people
of nervous disposition.
They would do better to
think on rabbits, chickens
And the first snowdrop
This slightly jarring poem from Steve Turner reminds us that a shallow take on Christmas loses sight of the profound nature of God’s entry into the world and his ultimate purpose. A young betrothed Jewish girl of no significance has her story told for the next 2,000 years. Ah the simplicity and profoundness.
So, as we come to Christmas to celebrate the birth of Christ. We can so easily get caught up in the holiday festivities; school and work breakups visiting extended family, decorating our houses buying presence... we forget to pause give thanks for the love, hope and joy found in Jesus – our Saviour and friend. As we exchange gifts with loved ones, it is out of remembrance of the gift God gave us in Jesus. The gift that we are loved, are never alone and can have hope for the future.
After Jesus was born, a small group of wise men visited him. They recognised the kingship of Jesus and they “worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11). We too, can offer up our worship and thanks to God through prayers this Christmas. Prayers of thanksgiving for the gift of hope, love and joy. We also have commoner shepherds entering the picture equally celebrating the coming of the Messiah.
Here we are 2020 and Christmas this year looks different to previous years. It may not match up to the commercial images you see or hopes you may have. But the meaning of Christmas doesn’t depend on the gifts under a tree or the type of food on your table. The message of Christmas doesn’t change if you are surrounded by family or missing loved ones. It is not affected by the house you live in – or don’t live in.
God’s love is for everyone. You are not alone. You are loved, and you can feel hopeful and joyful. That is the true meaning of Christmas.
Lord, in this holy season of prayer and song and laughter, we praise you for the great wonders you have sent us: for shining star and angel's song, for infant's cry in lowly manger. We praise you for the Word made flesh in a little Child. We behold his glory; and are bathed in its radiance.
Galatians 6: 1 – 6
Brothers, if someone is
caught in a sin, you who
are spiritual should
restore him gently. But
watch yourself, or you
also may be tempted.
A bloke once had a go at me saying my blessing for ministry would be taken away! It was delivered with great gusto, it was blunt and public, leaving me feeling furious and judged.
The context was this: a few of us were sitting in a mate’s shed discussing the whole gay marriage question (this was about 8 years ago when it had emerged as a big question for the wider church). As the conversation progressed there were big, bold statements of condemnation of gays and of those who sought to endorse marriage for them.
I shared with these blokes that my nephew was gay and as consequence had experienced his share of bullying and rejection growing up. As his uncle I did my best to respect, validate and love my troubled nephew. I posed the question to all present in the shed; when eventually my nephew decides to marry, do I compound his rejection and invalidation by refusing to support the marriage or do I affirm and engage with him and his partner and call them to live the values and grace of his Christian heritage to the full. What does God call me to do? And that’s when this bloke dropped his clanger.
I reckon there are times when the best of Christianity can be swallowed up by the worst, and often the worst is simply mean-spirited attacks from within our faith communities. Not inspiring for those looking on at the church while it beats up on itself.
Our Lord made it really clear if you’re struggling with a brother or sister in Christ, go and sort it out, don’t further demonise them don’t assume the worst of them because you simply can’t agree on a matter. The best way to resolve the disagreement is between the two of you (Matt 18:15). It’s awkward, uncomfortable and it takes prayer. When resolved, that relationship can be stronger than ever. And it’s your opportunity to grow, in wisdom and as a disciple.
God of friendship and forgiveness,
You lead us on life’s journey As we gather in Your name,
Open our minds to know Your voice.
Open our hands to do Your work.
And open our hearts to hold Your Spirit.
Faith and Doubt
Devotion by Graeme Harrison)
I place my hands in yours Lord
I place my hands in yours.
I place my will in yours Lord
I place my will in yours
I place my thoughts in yours Lord
I place my thoughts in yours
I place my days in yours Lord
I place my days in yours
I place my heart in yours Lord
I place my heart in yours
I place my life in yours Lord
I place my life in yours
David Adam in The Book of a Thousand Prayers
Luke 1:5-20. Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.
5In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
8Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
(Luke 1:5-20 NIV)
Thought for the Day:
What a strange scene. An angel appears and Zechariah knows it is an angel judging by his reaction. The angel brings astonishing good news that he and his wife are to have a miraculous birth in old age. And Zechariah asks the miraculous angel standing right in front of him in plain sight, how he can be sure?
And yet is Zechariah so different from us. His problem was the clash of world views that was taking place in his life. Life experience and social norms say that old people can’t have babies whereas God was assuring him that when God is involved other alternatives open up in life. Does that not sound like your experience and mine? Isn’t it true that God asks us to do abnormal things like loving the ‘unlovable’, and sharing Good News that changes lives. Don’t we believe in a loving personal God when the world appears as secular?
And yet sometimes, when we are called to defy the norms of society by Christ do we not hesitate and say “How can I be sure?”
Doubt and hesitation are not dealt with by denial and suppression but by accepting the feelings and bringing them before God. Sitting with God and praying with the father of so long ago, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief”.
Epilogue. God gave Zechariah the proof he asked for; miraculous muteness. Strangely his silence communicated God’s message to the community better than his spoken words.
Photo by [Tachina Lee](https://unsplash.com/@chne_?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText) on [Unsplash](https://unsplash.com/s/photos/thinking?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText)
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgins name was Mary. He went in and said to her, “Rejoice, you who enjoys Gods favour! The Lord is with you.”
Luke 1: 26 – 28.
Saying Yes to God
The Annunciation is an amazing account of God’s intervention into the world through the mysteries, powerful yet simple conversation and presence of an angel with young Mary in Nazareth. I try to imagine being in the room when she responds, “You see before you the Lord’s servant; let it happen to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).
Wow, I find myself overthinking these words and grab at the how, what, where, when questions whilst running on adrenalin plotting and scheming about the implications.
· How is this possible
· What does this mean
· Where is this to take place
The challenge is not to overthink these words but rather just let them be spoken for me, for you. To quote Henri Nouwen “Mary is so open, so free, so trusting. She is completely willing to hear words that go far beyond her own comprehension.”
Mary hears the words from Gabrielle she does seek clarity but does not doubt what God has call.
· She is scared but does not withdraw
· She uncertain yet has faith
“How can this be”, how can this be possible… only Mary has or ever will hear the words “The Holy Spirit will come upon you”.
This Christmas let’s meditate on Mary’s response, and may it be our response to the Holy Spirit’s nudge when God has something for us to live out.
Life-giving God, we thank you for calling Mary to be the mother of Jesus.
In a world where men were in control, you chose a young girl to nurture the Saviour of the world.
In a world where power is sought, you turned our values upside-down by inviting Mary to share in the great work of redemption.
We thank you that still you can call women and men to share in your saving actions.
You call us to live and serve in the ways of Christ, uncertain of the future but trusting in your faithfulness.
Sometimes your choices surprise us, the way you seem to point daunts us, your faith in our possibilities awe us.
Help us to say “Yes” when you call. Enlarge our vision, strengthen our resolve and increase our sense of your all sufficient grace, that we might be used mightily for your glory and for the serving of the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Patterns and Prayers Christian Worship)
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Titus. A Waste of Time
Devotion by Graeme Harrison)
Almighty God, Creator;
The morning is yours, rising into fullness
The summer is yours, dipping into Autumn, eternity is yours, dipping into time.
The vibrant grasses, the sent of flowers, the lichen on the rock, the tang of seaweed,
All are yours.
Gladly we live in this garden of your creating.
From George MacLeod’s poem “The whole earth shall cry Glory”
Titus 3:9. Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.
9But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. (Titus 3:9 NIV)
Thought for the Day:
I have had discussions with people who aren’t Christian who throw countless arguments at you to show why Christianity is nonsense. Inside me I have known that the whole discussion was pointless because no one was going to change their mind. Was it body language, or facial expression or just how things were said that gave it away? I’m not sure but I knew.
I have had the same experience with Christians arguing over things too. Why do we do it?
Paul urges us to avoid this type of thing. The best way to do so is to ask yourself, “How do I recognise a pointless controversy?” What do you think?
Titus. The Washing of Rebirth
Devotion by Graeme Harrison)
Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits thou hast given me,
for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,
may I know thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
and follow thee more nearly, day by day.
Richard of Chichester
Titus 3:3-7. Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.
3At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, 5he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, 7so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7 NIV)
Thought for the Day:
Many images are used to show people what we mean by salvation. This is an intriguing one, “the washing of rebirth”. What does this say about God? What does it say about us?
Sit with the image and have a conversation with God.
Photo by [Christian Bowen](https://unsplash.com/@chrishcush?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText) on [Unsplash](https://unsplash.com/s/photos/newborn?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText)
Devotion by Graeme Harrison)
Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways.
Reclothe us in our rightful minds,
In purer lives thy service find
In deeper reverence praise,
In deeper reverence praise.
Breathe through the heats of our desires
Thy coolness and thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire,
O still small voice of calm,
O still small voice of calm.
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892) (Book of a Thousand Prayers)
Titus 2:1-14. Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.
You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. 2Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
3Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
6Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
9Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive.
11For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
(Titus 2:1-14 NIV)
Thought for the Day:
So why have Titus readings at Christmas? Our passage talks about salvation and a Saviour. The letter to Titus makes it pretty blunt what salvation is and what we are being saved from. Paul is not writing to a church of academics and philosophers, but straightforward people who need you to speak in straightforward language. Paul’s blunt honest guidance would have been readily understood and immensely practical from their point of view.
I once attended another Christian community where the youth pastor got up and told them in no uncertain language that they had to stop doing drugs and keep away from violence and crime. No one was in any doubt about what salvation was when he was finished. But his blunt honesty enabled them to choose.
I wonder if people have clarity about salvation when we speak? Are you clear?
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Titus. A Big Ask
Devotion by Graeme Harrison)
Lord, I am yours, I was born for you;
What is your will for me?
Let me be rich or beggared
Exulting or lamenting
Comforted or lonely;
Since I am yours, yours only,
What is your will for me?
St Teresa of Avila(1552-15820 (Book of a Thousand Prayers)
Titus 1:1-12. Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— 2in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, 3and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Saviour,
4To Titus, my true son in our common faith:
Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Saviour.
5The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. 6An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
10For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. 11They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. 12One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.”
(Titus 1:1-12 NIV)
Thought for the Day:
Every year the letter of Paul to his apprentice Titus is wheeled out during the Christmas readings. You would not have noticed it because it is lost amongst shepherds, angels and mangers. But this pastoral letter is a tough one and it deals with Titus’ tough assignment. He is being asked to establish a leadership team in a church of newly converted Christians. On top of that, he must deal with the fact that the social norms on Crete are pretty low. Where else would you would it be hard to find an Elder because the requirements were “not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain”?
I get the impression that Paul did not enjoy living among the Cretan community. He has sent Titus to finish the job of stabilizing the new church and helping it navigate what it means to be Christian in this community.
At least for Titus it was clear what a change God makes in our lives when Christ becomes our Lord in ‘Bogun Central’. Is it as clear to you how Christ makes you different to your surrounding culture?
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